The City of Kolkata was in full bloom during end of 19th Century and in 20th Century. The British built the city in the pattern of 19th century /early 20th Century of London. Naturally lot of beautiful / heritage buildings were decaying. While many beautiful buildings were razed and sold to land sharks mostly in the last 30years or so, many organisations came forward in their rescue. As a result now many buildings are now being restored in Kolkata. Hopefully, someday we shall be able to see many beautifully buildings fully restored.
Many corporate house like cigarette giant ITC have restored and maintained their house
Addendum: ( 14th Sept'2010): I wrote this tip in 2008, when I mentioned about the Cottage Industry building will be restored to it's glory. Now if you cross/ move in Esplanade area, you will be able to see, how beautifully it is being restored. It will get completed in 2010 itself. The building is being painted in white , with gold at the top. Looks beautiful! I shall put more pictures once it is fully restored.
This temple, in the north-east of the city, was built in 1867 and dedicated to Sheetalnathji, the 10th of the 24 Jain tirthankars. The temple is an ornate mass of mirrors, coloured stones and glass mosaics. It overlooks a garden, and is open daily from 6 to 11.30 am and 3 to 7 pm but I found it is open at 1.00 PM also on Sunday. There is a set of four temples of Jain Tirthankars.
This is a place where you get peace of your mind.
The Indian Botanical Garden, Howrah, commonly known as Calcutta Botanical Gardens, is situated in Shibpor, Howrah, across the Hooghlie river from the main part of Kolkata. It was founded in 1787 by Colonel Robert Kydd, in order to find new plants of commercial value, and to grow them for trade - one of it's greatest triumphs was the introduction from China of the tea plant, which was then established in the Himalayas and in Assam. In the nineteenth century however, the gardens began to display their collection of ornamental plants to the public.
The Large Palm house was built in the middle of the 19th century to house palms and shade-loving plants - at the centre of the house grows the Double Coconut tree, indigenous to the Seychelles Islands, and introduced and planted here in 1894. It is the largest seed-bearing plant so far discovered - the seed looks like two coconuts fused together, hence the name. The Andaman climbing palm, the bird's nest fern and other plants create an environment comparable to a rain forest, making it great fun to wander around.
It is the Great Banyan Tree, however, which is the greatest attraction and landmark of the gardens. The tree, Ficus benghalensis, is more than 250 years old and has spread over an area of 1.5 hectares (4 acres), with about 2880 prop-roots (aerial roots reaching down to the ground). It had a place in the Guiness book of records as the widest tree in the world, however it became diseased after it was struck by lightning, so in 1925 the middle of the tree was excised to keep the remainder healthy; this has left it as a clonal colony, rather than a single tree. It certainly looks more like a forest!
The New Market was built in the 1870s on Lindsay Street, which had been bought by the Calcutta Corporation as a site for its new complex, an alternative shopping site for the British citizens of Calcutta to the local bazaars. It was opened to the English residents on January 1st 1874. Sir Stuart Hogg, the chairman of the Corporation, had supported the plans for the market, and in 1903 his perseverance was rewarded by the market being named after him - his name is still on the front, even though it seems to have reverted to its original name since Independance.
The market has been expanded twice - to the north in 1909, and to the south in the 1930s - and the clock tower was also added in the 1930s. Large portions of the original building burned down in 1985, but it has since been rebuilt and a new wing added.
The New Market is a great place to wander around at any time - full of jewellery and clothes shops at the front, with sweet shops too, and vegetable stalls in the open arcades to the sides. Around Holi, when we were there, there were also lots of stalls selling tika powder, and also going on at the time was Kolkata haat, which was apparently an arts and crafts initiative, but what we saw of it was musical performances outside the main building, and lots of food stalls - it was more like a little festival, possibly due to Holi.
According to legend, the goddess Sati, daughter of Daksha, married the god Shiva against her father's will. Daksha performed a sacrifice and invited all the gods but Sati and Shiva to it; Sati attended anyway, but when her father ignored her, and insulted her husband Shiva, she immolated herself. Shiva was enraged and destroyed Daksha's sacrifice, cut off Daksha's head and replaced it with that of a goat, and then, carrying Sati's body, performed the dance of destruction. As he danced, the other gods tried to stop him, and in doing so, parts of Sati's body were scattered over the Indian subcontinent, in 52 places. Kalighat is the place where the toes from the right foot fell.
Some time later, a devotee saw a ray of light coming from the river bed, and when he investigated the source, he found a piece of stone carved in the form of a toe. He also found a lingam, and began to worship Kali here. A shrine was built, probably just a small hut to begin with.
The temple in its current form was completed in 1809, although there is documentary evidence of a temple on the site from the 15th century, and coins from the reign of Chandragupta II (375-413AD) have been found in the area.
It is situated a short distance from the Kalighat metro station, and is approached through rows of stalls selling offerings, religious paintings, conch shells etc. On passing through the main entrance, shoes must be removed and left with the guardians. It is in this area that goats are killed before being offered as sacrifices. If desired, you can join the queue (careful of the goat's blood in your bare feet!) to pass through the main temple where you can see the idol, and give an offering (around 50-100 rupees or so) to the priests who will bless you and mark your forehead with tika powder.
No photos within the temple.
The Dharamtollah Mosque, better known as the Tipu Sultan Mosque, was built around 1842, probably by Ghulam Mohammed, the fourteenth son of Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore from 1782-1799 ('The Tiger of Mysore'). After his defeat and death in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, for which the future Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, was partially responsible, the British sent the Sultan's family to Calcutta, where Ghulam Mohammed was eventually recognised by the Government of India as official head of the family and successor to his father. Knighted in 1870, he died two years later, aged 77, of dengue fever, the last surviving son of Tipu Sultan.
The mosque is double-aisled and with multiple domes and tall corner towers. Sadly I couldn't get a very good photo of it, as the road in front of it is lined with stalls and trees, but it's an impressive building nonetheless.
When Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, captured the old Fort William on June 19, 1756, British prisoners of war including both soldiers and civilians were kept in the guardroom. One of the prisoners, John Zephaniah Holwell, claimed that the conditions in the guardroom, which measured 14 by 18 ft (4.3 by 5.5 m), were so cramped that of the 146 prisoners, 123 died from heat stroke, suffocation and trampling. It is known that there were between 64 and 69 British soldiers captured, but the number of civilians in the fort at the time is unknown, as is the number of the Anglo-Indian soldiers, or 'Portuguese' as those of mixed race were often known before 1850. It is now thought that the number of deaths was greatly exaggerated, or possibly even fabricated altogether.
Holwell apparently erected a tablet on the site of the Black Hole to commemorate the victims, but this disappeared, and when Lord Curzon became the Vice-Roy in 1889, he commissioned a new monument, which was erected at the corner of Dalhousie Square (now BBD Bagh) in 1901. It became a local focus of the nationalist movement in the run-up to Indian Indepence, and was removed in July 1940. It was re-erected in St John's churchyard where it stands today.
Job Charnock is traditionally credited with being the founder of Calcutta, and although there were Bengali villages situated in the area before his arrival in India in the 1650s, it was the establishment of a factory and headquarters of the English East India Company here in 1690 that caused Calcutta to grow steadily until it became a city, and the capital of the British Empire in India.
Charnock, who was the company's chief agent in Bengal, had taken a Indian widow as his common-law wife (possibly rescuing her from the practice of sati, or burning on the funeral pyre of her late husband), and they had 4 children - one son and three daughters. Charnock died in Calcutta on 10th January 1692, and his successor and son-in-law, Sir Charles Eyre, erected a mausoleum over his grave in 1695.
This mausoleum now stands in the graveyard of St John's Church, and the translation of the Latin epitaph (pictured, 2nd photo) reads:
"In the hands of God Almighty, Job Charnock, English knight and recently the most worthy agent of the English in this Kingdom of Bengal, left his mortal remains under this marble so that he might sleep in the hope of a blessed resurrection at the coming of Christ the Judge. After he had journeyed onto foreign soil he returned after a little while to his eternal home on the 10th day of January 1692. By his side lies Mary, first-born daughter of Job, and dearest wife of Charles Eyre, the English prefect in these parts. She died on 19 February AD 1696–7."
Originally Calcutta's cathedral church, and possibly the 2nd oldest church in the city, St John's was begun in the 1780s to commemorate the victims of the First Afghan War. The land on which St John’s is built was donated by a Maharaja Nabo Kishen Bahadur, and the foundation stone was laid by the Governor General, Warren Hastings, on April 6th, 1784. Designed by Lieutenant James Agg of the Bengal Engineers, it was based on St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, but due to poor soil, the spire was shortened to prevent subsidence, leaving off the entire fourth tier, leaving it only 174ft high. The church was completed by 1787.
Inside the church are memorial tablets of prominent citizens of the British in Calcutta, as can be seen in the second photo.
I will describle the two monuments in the graveyard separately as they are worth their own tips.
The Ochterlony Monument, standing 48m high on the north side of the Maidan, was erected in 1828 in honour of Sir David Ochterlony who was the commander of the British East India Company's troops in the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814-1816. It is an odd combination of architectural styles with a classical looking pedestal and column topped by two balconies and a cap reminiscent of those from a minaret. It was renamed Shaheed Minar (Tower for the Martyrs) in 1969.
Fort William, next to the Hooghly, was originally built by the British East India Company between 1701 and 1706, and was named after King William III of England. This was the site of the infamous (if debateable) Black Hole of Calcutta, in 1756, where it was claimed 123 British prisoners died of suffocation and crushing after the fort was taken by the Nawab of Bengal - this event may have been exaggerated or even entirely fabricated by the surviving defenders. Following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 a new fort was begun by the British, completed by 1781. This new fort is still in use by the Indian Army, and can only be visited by civilians by special appointment.
The Maidan (which means 'open field') began as a clearing of the jungle around Fort William to form a parade ground for the troops and to open up a path to the river Hooghly. It is now the largest urban park in Kolkata, covering around 3 square km, and is known as the lungs of the city. To the southern end of the Maidan stands the Victoria Memorial, and the park also contains the oldest golf club outside of the UK, and is also home to several cricket and football clubs.
As well as being a place to stroll, enjoy sports, or take carriage rides, many people of Calcutta carry out their chores here too - you can see washermen and shepherds with their flocks among others. Reminders of the Maidan's original military purpose still exist, as can be seen from the tank in the photo.
The Victoria Memorial was built as a memorial to Queen Victoria, queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India, and also as a tribute to the success of the British Empire in India. It was designed by Sir William Emerson, who incorporated Mughal elements into the plan, and was constructed between 1906 and 1921.
It contains a museum and art gallery containing artefacts and paintings relating to the reign of Queen Victoria and to the British Raj in India. Sadly, on the two occasions we tried to visit, the museum was closed, but we did get to enjoy a wander around some of the lovely gardens surrounding the building, only a part of the 64 acres.
The gardens are open 5.30am to 7pm, and cost 4INR to enter. The Museum costs 150INR for foreigners, and is open 10am to 5pm, but is closed on all Mondays and some holidays (such as Holi, probably why it was closed when we went!).
Built between 1839 and 1847, the Cathedral was designed by Major William Nairn Forbes in the Gothic Revival style, basing the tower and spire on that of Norwich Cathedral. Following the earthquake of 1934, the tower was rebuilt and was this time modelled on the Bell Harry Tower of Canterbury Cathedral. The Cathedral's founder, Bishop Daniel Wilson, is buried here.
My main reason for wanting to visit the Cathedral was for the stained glass window by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, which for any fan of pre-raphaelite art is a wonderful treat. It was apparently designed in 1874, in honour of Lord Mayo (the British Vice-Roy of India) who was assasinated in the Andaman Islands in 1872. It depicts Enoch, Elijah and St Thomas among others.
The Cathedral is open for visits between 9am and 12pm, and 3-6pm, and is free to enter.
The South Park Street Cemetery is a graveyard containing many old and interesting tombs and gravestones from the time of the Raj. It was opened in 1767 and the last memorial apparently dates from around 1895 - in between those dates, the 'great and good' of Calcutta's society (the British ones at any rate!) were buried here, many of them having died tragically young. Mentioned in literature, notably by Rudyard Kipling and Vikram Seth, famous graves include those of Sir William Jones, founder of the Royal Asiatic society of Bengal; Elizabeth Jane Barwell, the 'celebrated Miss Sanderson', a famous wit and beauty; Rose Aylmer, famed for the poem by Walter Savage Landor; and my favourite, Major-General Charles Stuart, known as Hindoo Stuart because of his adoption of Indian dress and customs.